• What's the Economic Importance of Alaska's Healthy Ecosystems?

      Colt, Steve (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska., 2001)
      About one quarter of Alaska’s jobs depend in one way or another on the state's fish, wildlife, scenic beauty, recreational opportunities, and public lands. That’s a rough estimate of what healthy ecosystems contribute to the economy. Salmon and other natural assets depend on habitat, clean water, and other benefits from Alaska’s ecosystems.2 Those natural assets in turn support jobs—about 84,000, once we adjust for some double-counting across industries. We include only jobs that depend on healthy ecosystems and natural assets and that are sustainable year after year. About half the ecosystem-related jobs rely on commercial, sport, and subsistence harvests of fish and wildlife. Tourism, recreation, and government management of public lands and resources support the other half. Another way of measuring the economic importance of Alaska’s ecosystems is what economists call “net willingness to pay.” That’s an estimate of how much more Americans would be willing to pay—besides what they already spend— to maintain Alaska’s natural assets. That method allows economists to assign a dollar value to things like scenery. Why would we want to put an economic value on such intangibles? It’s a useful way of show- ing that—aside from other kinds of value—Alaska’s healthy ecosystems have enormous economic value. Our ability to estimate net (or additional) willingness to pay for ecosystem benefits does vary, depending on what’s being valued.